Articles by

Giacinta Frisillo

04/01/16 11:00am
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Richard Lenatsky is the familiar face selling succulents at the McCarren Park market. Photos by Gia Frisillo.

A customer decked out in leather and ripped jeans stood on line at McCarren Greenmarket’s Far Out Cactus, between a yuppie couple with a purebred dog and a hippie in Buddhist prayer beads carrying a yoga mat.“He’s definitely the succulent guy,” she said. “I wanted to get a present for my grandmother, and what could be cooler than this weird cactus?”

I first noticed the succulent stand about a year ago, while composting at the Greenmarket. Since then, whenever I’ve needed an interesting and affordable gift, or get a hankering for a bit more greenery myself, this stand is my go-to. And I’m not alone: the stand is a meeting point for tiny plant fiends from all walks of life.

Richard Lenatsky is the owner and sole proprietor of the succulent stand, and has been working professionally with arid plants for decades. May 1st will mark his 45th year in the business — including a brief stint selling peyote. After I bought my last succulent from him — and spent 20 minutes learning about it — I couldn’t stop wondering about the man who deftly handled the needles on a cactus with his bare hands, without wincing.

“I’m pretty used to it now,” Lenatsky, who drives to Brooklyn from Pennsylvania at 4am every Saturday told Brokelyn. “[But] my wife still spends every night removing all the needles I can’t reach with a pair of tweezers.” (more…)